Copyright (c) 1999 Saint Louis University School of Law
Saint Louis-Warsaw Transatlantic Law Journal
PERSPECTIVES ON EQUAL PROTECTION -- PART II: Equality under Swiss Law
1999 St. Louis-Warsaw Trans'l 37
Andreas Kellerhals and Dirk Truten*
The principle that all persons are equal before the law was originally adopted in Article 4 of the Swiss Constitution of 1848. This article was a revolutionary antithesis to the privilege-based state under the Ancien Regime. The primary goal of the provision was the elimination of political privileges (patricians vis-a-vis other estates, the cities vis-a-vis the countryside, and landowners vis-a-vis non-property owners) within the new federal state. The Swiss Federal Court - the highest court in Switzerland - emerged as the instrument for achieving this goal. In its role as a constitutional court, the Federal Court has given content to the principle of equality through a number of innovative decisions.
I. STRUCTURE AND SCOPE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUALITY UNDER THE SWISS CONSTITUTION
The principle of equality is embodied in Article 4 of the Swiss Federal Constitution (SFC). 1 Paragraph 1 contains the general rule for equality while paragraph 2 guarantees equality between the sexes: 2
1.All Swiss citizens are equal before the law. In Switzerland, there shall be no subjects, nor privileges based on place, birth, person or family.
2.Men and women are equal before the law. The law provides for their equal standing, particularly in the domains of the family, education and work. Men and women are entitled to equal wages for work of equal value. 3
This provision should be viewed in its historical context. The first paragraph was taken verbatim from the first federal constitution of 1848. The second paragraph, adopted less than twenty ...
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